One of the biggest flaws in Lord of the Rings was the endless video game-like orc slaughter that was gratuitous at best and silly at worst (e.g. Legolas skating down stairs of Helms Deep on a shield shooting orcs). The Hobbit continues with that tradition, where goblins seem to be capable of nothing more than to get their heads chopped off. Any tension they might have existed when our heroes are surrounded by goblins is preemptively dissipated.
The much-touted high frame rate makes it feel hyper-realistic, but that only serves to drag the modern CG back 15 years. The higher the filming quality, the harder it is the trick the brain with the CG.
The movie suffered the same fate as the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, another beloved sci-fi/fantasy novel adapted for the screen starring Martin Freeman. The fate being, where the movie followed the book, it was a good enough, and where it didn’t, it kinda fell short.
As a pretty devout fan of Tolkien, a lot of little things made the movie worse, errors that someone who doesn’t own a replica One Ring wouldn’t notice. For example, the composer, Howard Shore used the leitmotif of the Witch-King in LotR for the Goblin King, Azog (whose role was extended for the movie) which felt like a lazy attempt to connect the two series thematically. Almost the whole soundtrack is borrowed wholesale from Lord of the Rings.
The reason why the movie didn’t work is that Peter Jackson apparently felt he was not done telling the story of Lord of the Rings and decided that The Hobbit was a good way to deliver it. We see the dark lord Sauron gathering his strength and the White Council deliberating their plan of action, which is unneeded in an action/adventure type movie; an allusion here and there is all that was needed. But the type of obsession that caused Peter Jackson to have all the props created just for the movies (chainmail and all) is what caused these other unneeded details.
It looked and felt a lot like Lord of the Rings, with the sweeping shots of mountains and forests. and as I mentioned the soundtrack doesn’t help to differentiate the two series. I went in hoping for a more magical feel, for a lack of a better word. The world of The Hobbit, though of course the same, felt more innocent and less dismal than Lord of the Rings, and that difference is not captured here. The Hobbit has a dragon and a battle of five armies. The Lord of the Rings has the Elves leaving middle earth, the Shire being destroyed (not in the movies, though) and the One Ring has scarred both Frodo and Bilbo.
I’ve been focusing on all the negatives because of the disappointment, but there is a good movie here. All the actors did a good job, and Martin Freeman is great as always. I wish they spent more time focusing on the dwarves; only half of them are familiar, the rest seem unimportant. The 3D was quite excellent, even though I really dislike the fad. And at the end of the movie, it somehow didn’t feel like 2 hours and 40 minutes had passed. I wanted it to keep going despite all my complaints. Though Radagast riding a sled driven by a bunch of rather large rabbits was absurd to say the least.
I wouldn’t be surprised if there will be fan edits sold at conventions with all the extra stuff cut out, and I will buy one.
John Henry Briggs is the number-two son of Yours Truly.